March 2012 Archives

manoncomputer.jpgI have spent more than 30 years of my career trying to help cancer patients prevent or overcome sexual problems related to treatment. Although we better understand the causes of those problems, and have a few medical options to restore firm erections, most men still don't get accurate information when they need it.

To try to solve this situation, my research team has been working with a small business grant from the National Cancer Institute (and our small business partner Paul Martinetti, M.D., of Digital Science Technologies L.L.C.), to create a website that will provide education, self-help suggestions and advice on getting the best medical care for men's cancer-related sexual problems.

In creating the website, we interviewed 48 men of varying ages and ethnicities with different types of cancer. We asked them to review drafts of the website and report their experiences.

Alarming findings
The first, rather discouraging finding was that many men had never been given a chance to discuss this important part of life after cancer. Some valued the interview so much that they sent emails or called back to personally thank Evan Odensky, the senior behavioral research coordinator on our project.

Another common pattern was that men didn't realize how important a sexual problem could be until they experienced it. When they were planning their cancer treatment, 62% worried just a little or not at all that cancer treatment would damage their sex life.

Preserving sexual function was a major factor in choosing a treatment for only 13%. At the time of the interview, however, 79% of men rated their sexual function as moderately to very important.

By Jennifer Montgomery, MD Anderson Staff Writer

A new report shows that cancer death rates are still on the decline in the United States, but increasing obesity remains a concern.

The Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, released March 28, notes that for more than three decades, too much weight, too little exercise and unhealthy eating habits have been second only to tobacco as preventable causes of disease and death.

Since the 1960s, the report says, tobacco use has declined by one-third, but obesity rates have doubled. According to the report, 2 in 3 adults and 1 in 3 kids are overweight or obese, which places them at risk for not only heart disease and diabetes, but also cancer. After reviewing more than 7,000 studies, the report's researchers have identified six cancers associated with being overweight or obese:

  • Esophageal adenocarcinoma
  • Colon and rectal cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Endometrial cancer
  • Breast cancer among postmenopausal women
This review also finds convincing evidence of an association between lack of sufficient physical activity and increased risk of colon cancer. A probable association is cited for post-menopausal breast and endometrial cancers.The report notes that less than half of adults get enough physical activity. Youths get even less.

Holly's Hair

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hollyhair.jpgBy Holly Easley

Holly Easley began her cancer journey five years ago when she was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). After two types of chemotherapy and then a stem cell transplant, she says she loves life, is improving daily and enjoys blogging about the cancer experience at

My hair.

I've always had a love-hate relationship with my hair. Being a redhead attracted a lot of attention, good and bad.

On the good side was the color of my red hair, a coppery, bright red with natural highlights. It was fine and thick with enough natural curl to work with.

The bad side? There's a stigma about redheads having a temper. I don't know how many times I heard, "Don't make Holly mad. That temper will come out," in grade school.

New "do"

When I began my stem cell transplant journey, my hair journey followed right along with it.

I knew my hair was going to fall out, so the first thing I did was get my shoulder-length hair cut to an inch all over. I know some people prefer to shave their heads, but I opted for a really short "do" and was relieved in a weird way.

marcys2ndpostpic.jpgBy Marcy Kurtz

I'm most importantly a daughter, sister, aunt and dependable friend to many. I practice law as a vocation and yoga as an avocation. I'm deeply committed to helping people, as a lawyer and as a yoga instructor. I'm a two-time cancer survivor -- beating breast cancer diagnosed in October 2005 and uterine cancer diagnosed in August 2010. I'm just another ordinary person living an ordinary life, one day at a time. 

Continued from Tuesday's post

I made an appointment with my gynecologist, who saw me in late July 2010. She was alarmed by the gigantic mass she saw during my physical exam. That discovery started a three-week regimen of daily tests, inside and outside of MD Anderson, as doctors worked diligently to determine if my breast cancer had metastasized or if something else was wrong with me. 

Finally, MD Anderson determined my gynecology surgeon should remove the mass growing inside me and further tests would follow. 

When my surgeon shared the lab results with me post-surgery, he was crying. I was too shocked for that as I listened to him explain to me I was in serious trouble. He asked if I had any personal connections at MD Anderson. I reminded him that I was already a patient there and could contact my breast cancer oncologist.

By Marcy Kurtz

marcypart1pic.jpgI'm most importantly a daughter, sister, aunt and dependable friend to many. I practice law as a vocation and yoga as an avocation.I'm deeply committed to helping people, as a lawyer and as a yoga instructor. I'm a two-time cancer survivor -- beating breast cancer diagnosed in October 2005 and uterine cancer diagnosed in August 2010. I'm just another ordinary person living an ordinary life, one day at a time. 

Everything happens for a reason.

I used to get so annoyed when people would say that to me. I always heard that expression when I was in the middle of some perceived life crisis and sure that my world as I knew it was going to end at any moment.

Those choice words were often followed by equally irritating comments such as "more will be revealed" or "you don't know how this story will end" and other similar profound statements that, in my mind, did nothing to help me out of my immediate misery. Instead, they made me feel like my distress wasn't justified. 

Well, maybe it wasn't. But I didn't learn that lesson when I was in the middle of a crisis; I learned it looking backward during a period of gratitude and calm. 

Early in 2009 I got a phone call from a friend, a fellow breast cancer survivor who was a member of the Board of Visitors for MD Anderson Cancer Center, asking if I would serve as chair for the Sprint for Life 5K race. This annual event is the major fundraiser benefiting the Blanton-Davis Ovarian Cancer Research Program

By Peiying Yang, Ph.D., and Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D.

wholefoodsorsuppl.jpgIn the past 50 years, the use of nutritional supplements for the prevention of cancer has increased dramatically in the United States. However, emerging scientific evidence strongly supports the beneficial effects of whole foods for cancer prevention, yet little support from any single nutrient or combinations thereof.

More than 200 recent epidemiological studies indicate that whole nutritionally dense foods, especially fruits, vegetables and high-fiber foods provide more benefits than isolated nutrients in preventing various cancers.

Whole foods contain a wide array of nutrients including vitamins, minerals and a number of other biologically active compounds, collectively known as phytonutrients. These phytonutrients, such as 3,3'-diindolylmethane (DIM) in broccoli or isoprenoids and polyphenols in other vegetables, may work in concert to provide the best support for cancer prevention and control. 

For example, fruit and vegetable combined, such as tomato and broccoli extracts or mushroom and green tea, exhibit strong antioxidant and antiproliferative activities in prostate cancer and potential to reduce breast cancer risk compared to that of the individual foods alone.

cherylkeenan.jpgBy Cheryl Keenan, advanced practice nurse, Department of Neurosurgery

I have been involved with Run for the Rose since it started 10 years ago.

Dr. Marnie Rose was one of our patients. I met her when she was working in her pediatric residency. She was a brave and courageous physician and patient.

It was during her residency that Marnie found she had a brain tumor.

In 2005, the neurosurgeon I worked for and who helped care for Marnie during her illness was also diagnosed with a brain tumor. My involvement with these two exceptional physicians has driven me to be passionate about the care of brain tumor patients and Run for the Rose.

The Brain and Spine Center team from MD Anderson is out there every year with a booth for patient and family education. We pass out information about our center, which is one of the largest and most comprehensive programs of its kind in the world.

Financial support from the Dr. Marnie Rose Foundation has done so much to help with brain cancer research and improved patient outcomes in the Brain and Spine Center.
It's also heartwarming to see survivors with their families returning to support Run for the Rose.

pedidrs.jpgTell children something and they might understand. Show them something and they'll remember it.

In March, MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital did just that. Through two educational events, pediatric patients and their siblings engaged in fun, interactive activities that brought learning to life.

One fish, two fish
"Red fish, blue fish," read one 6-year-old patient. She was among many participating in Read Across America Day hosted by the Pediatric Education and Creative Arts Program at MD Anderson. The annual literacy day celebrates the birthday of Dr. Seuss, inspiring more than 45 million young readers across the nation to pick up a book and read.

At the Children's Cancer Hospital, patients spent the day reading Dr. Seuss books with hospital staff, making Seuss-inspired art projects, performing a "Seussical" play with Theatre Under the Stars,and finishing the day with a Dr. Seuss movie.

Throughout the year, patients have the opportunity to participate in various interactive learning experiences through the hospital's privately accredited school. This spring, students will become young entrepreneurs in the lemonade business, will take a special tour of the Downtown Aquarium as part of their distance learning curriculum and also will engage in their annual "field day."

M_Davila3.jpgMarta Davila, M.D., continues to see the benefits of colorectal cancer screening.

A physician in MD Anderson's Endoscopy Center, Davila recently treated a presumably healthy 52-year-old man who responded to his wife's encouragement to get a colonoscopy.

"The patient kept postponing his colonoscopy appointment because he felt well. He was diagnosed with early stage colon cancer, underwent surgery and is now cured," says Davila, professor in the Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. "He was one of the lucky ones."  

According to Davila, preventive colorectal cancer screening is particularly important, especially since patients rarely experience symptoms until the cancer is at an advanced stage.

"The reality is we need to encourage our patients to get a screening test. It's the right thing to do," she says.

Research shows screening saves lives
A recent article published in the New England Journal of Medicine underscored the effectiveness of colonoscopy and colon polyp removal in saving lives. Researchers learned the death rate from colorectal cancer was cut by 53% in patients whose doctors had removed precancerous polyps.

Running for Jennie

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By Kristin Elmore

JenKristinPHHfinal1.jpgKristin Elmore feels honored to have spent last year as roommate and caregiver to her true, blue best friend, Jennie, who died of a glioblastoma multiforme in May 2011. If wishes came true and money grew on trees, Kristin would find a way to make a living writing about Jennie, her experiences as a caregiver and helping to carry forward the enduring gift Jennie left behind.

The jetlag from international travel gives me the strangest dreams. On my first night home after a particularly taxing business trip, I woke in a sweaty panic.

Jennie and I were sitting in an MD Anderson exam room and she crumbled in my lap. I couldn't wake her, I couldn't hold her, I couldn't save her. It was one of those dreams that stays with you for days, the kind that makes your heart hurt when you think about it.

I sat on the edge of her bed the next day and told her about my dream. She -- the one who was living it, the one who was dying -- only wanted to comfort me. "We shouldn't have to deal with this at 30. It's OK to be scared," she said.

Jennie was diagnosed with a stage IV glioblastoma in February 2009. Numbness down the left side of her body and a telling metallic taste in her mouth took her to her general practitioner in January of that year. He suspected migraines, but did an MRI just to be safe.

She hadn't even made it all the way home from her appointment before he called to ask that she return to his office. When she arrived, he handed her a disk containing her scans and a card for the Brain and Spine Center at MD Anderson. "Good luck," he said.

One awake craniotomy, six weeks of radiation and 14 months of chemo led Jennie to May 5, 2010, when she got the "all clear" from her doctors. She was tumor free. Her hope and positive thinking almost silenced my realism. Almost.

Results from a report released today in a leading medical journal indicate that low dose daily aspirin reduces the risk of metastasis of several cancers. According to articles in The Lancet, the protective effect occurs within 3-5 years of beginning aspirin use.

Read more about the study in a post from our Cancer Frontline blog.

Raymond DuBois, M.D., Ph.D, MD Anderson's provost and executive vice president and a professor of cancer biology and cancer medicine, shares his insights on the study's significance and addresses questions about aspirin dose, and how cancer patients should respond to this news.

findinggoodinfocomputer.jpgBy Andrew Griffith

When I got that phone call and the doctor diagnosed me with mantle cell lymphoma (MCL), my instinct, like so many of us, was to Google. Since then, I have learned about what to look for, what to avoid and how to manage my natural wish to know as much as possible.

The following are six suggestions to help others faced with a cancer diagnosis.

1. Google, but wisely:
Google (and Wikipedia) are a reflex. Don't fight it. However, when looking at suggested links, go for more reliable sources. Any national cancer (e.g., American Cancer Society) or health agency (e.g., National Cancer Institute), major cancer center (e.g., MD Anderson), and any specific cancer organization (in my case, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society).

Be forewarned, for more aggressive cancers, this will be frightening reading.

Tim Shiery was diagnosed with melanoma in 2005, at the age of 47. "I had a black mole on the back of my neck that could no longer be hidden with a band aid," Shiery says.

After a visit to the family physician, Shiery was referred to MD Anderson.

Under the care of surgeon Jeffrey Lee, M.D., and oncologist Patrick Hwu, M.D., he underwent a successful surgery and five rounds of interferon.

But two years later, the cancer was back. This time it was stage IV metastatic melanoma, which had spread to his brain and lungs.

After another surgery to remove the spots, Shiery was hopeful that he would once again be cancer free.

He was wrong.

A few more spots appeared on his liver, skin and bones.

lanieandron11.jpgBy William Fitzgerald, MD Anderson Staff Writer

It all began 10 years ago when Jerry and Lanie Rose lost their daughter, Marnie, to glioblastoma, the most lethal type of brain cancer.
Marnie was a vibrant 27-year-old in the first year of her medical residency when she learned of the heartbreaking diagnosis. During her valiant efforts to overcome the disease, she became a public figure of sorts, after agreeing to share her cancer journey and professional life on ABC's reality series "Houston Medical" in 2002.

Sadly, just five weeks before the show's final episode would air, Marnie succumbed to her disease. The Rose family was determined to honor their daughter's legacy, while finding a way to generate funds for two Houston hospitals that Marnie cared about deeply -- MD Anderson, where she was treated, and Children's Memorial Hermann, where she was training to be a pediatrician.

In 2003, the Run for the Rose was born. It quickly morphed into a community-wide event uniting patients, survivors, local businesses and families. 

By Beth Moore

bethmasonmoore11.jpgMy husband, Mason, is a small-town boy from Cisco, Texas. He graduated from Sam Houston State University with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. After graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves and got a job with the police department.

I work as a high school English teacher in Pearland, Texas. We settled there because, as I like to say, "it was all part of God's plan." If we hadn't chosen Pearland, Mason's father would never have come to MD Anderson for treatment. If he'd never come here, we might not know about Lynch Syndrome.

Without knowledge of Lynch Syndrome, who knows where Mason would be today.

June 17 has become quite an important date for us. On June 17, 2010, we closed on our first house. On June 17, 2011, Mason, my 27-year-old husband, was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer.

One year you're busy decorating your new home with your new husband and looking to start a family, and the next, you're faced with a life-threatening illness.

In December 2009, my husband's father was diagnosed with stage I colon cancer. He isn't from around Houston, but since Mason and I live here, he decided to seek treatment at MD Anderson.

coloncancerrecipe.jpgBy Adelina Espat and Laura Nathan-Garner

Struggling to get your daily dose of fiber? Get your fill by replacing high-calorie dishes with these recipes for lower-calorie, fiber-rich alternatives.

Studies show plant-based foods rich in dietary fiber may reduce your risk for colorectal cancer. That's because the more fiber you consume, the less time harmful toxins spend inside your body.

Each of these easy-to-make recipes is loaded with fresh, plant-based foods, which are the most beneficial forms of fiber, hands-down.

Making a rice dish? Swap white rice for brown
What's one of the easiest ways to eat more whole grains? Replace white rice with brown. Get started by making this recipe for brown rice and cranberries. The sweet and savory combination will be a crowd-pleasing side dish at any meal. Brown Rice with Cranberries Recipe

Start the day with banana oatmeal muffins

These healthy muffins are delicious as a snack or quick breakfast. The recipe features high-fiber oats and whole-wheat flour that help reduce your risks for colorectal cancer. Plus, applesauce and bananas add essential vitamins and keep the muffins moist and low in fat. Banana Oatmeal Muffins Recipe

By Justin Ozuna

Justinheadphones.jpgJustin Ozuna lives in Dallas and was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia in January 2006. His mission is to capture the ups and downs of a young adult living with cancer and to serve people through humor, encouragement, hope and adversity at his blog,

Two weeks ago, I sat in a coffee shop and stared at a blinking cursor on a blank screen. The cafe was filled with noisy conversation, a non-ambient soundtrack and customers who yelled orders over obnoxious blenders.

I kept wishing things would be different, fantasizing about conversation levels dying down and hoping that people would finally get the memo that coffee is not meant to be mixed with ice. I sat feeling defeated and realizing that none of those things would ever come true.

Suddenly, I remembered that my backpack was at the foot of the table. As quickly as I could, I reached for my headphones and put them over my ears.

My own music

Ambient music flooded my senses and the world around me had become mute. The jackhammer that was apparently used to crush ice was extinguished and I no longer felt as if I was in a restless place with infinite drink combinations. I had finally found my comfort zone.

Holmesvitaminmadness.jpgBy Holly Holmes, M.D., assistant professor, General Internal Medicine

Patients often make an appointment with me to get help reducing the number of drugs they're taking. Because I'm a geriatrician and was a pharmacist, I have a real passion for the appropriate use of medication.

Patients are surprised when, looking through their list, the first thing I suggest dropping is a vitamin. This leads to a lengthy and interesting conversation (sometimes an argument).

Trying to sort out why a patient is taking a multivitamin is a really good starting point to understanding the kinds of goals they have to create and maintain a healthy life. I applaud my patients' desire to really do something to make a change, and I do my best to redirect that positive energy away from multivitamins.

Multivitamin myths

Health care professionals who recommend vitamins are doing a disservice to their patients.

There are two myths that need to be shattered:

billbauntrack.jpgBy Mindy Loya, MD Anderson Staff Writer

According to the National Cancer Institute's Office of Survivorship, your journey as a cancer survivor begins the day you're diagnosed with the disease. Since the 1980s, cancer survivors and their doctors have tried to describe the stages that cancer survivors typically experience.

Bill Baun, a wellness coach and patient at MD Anderson, says the journey through survivorship starts with an attitude.

"My journey began when I decided cancer wasn't going to rule my life," Baun says. "It's very personal because it's a state of mind that no one else can give to you."

Baun was diagnosed five years ago with stage III prostate cancer. He had a Gleason score of nine and his prostate specific antigen (PSA) test result was a 14. He had open surgery, 33 radiation treatments and spent two years on hormone therapy.

Living with cancer
Baun says he'd been preparing for his cancer journey his whole life. His mother died of colon cancer when he was 18 and his father died of prostate cancer in 1992. After receiving his diagnosis, his first concerns were to calm his wife and go for a walk.

"The first lap, I cried and thought 'why me.' The second lap, the fear set in and I thought, 'what if I never see my grandkids.' Finally, on the third and fourth laps, I thought about my mother and her strength."

polypmanscope2012.jpgKimberly Tripp was 12 years old when her grandmother died of gastrointestinal cancer. The loss of the person she most admired led her to a career in health care and, eventually, to MD Anderson.

"My first position here was as a post-op surgical nurse on the GI floor," says Tripp, currently administrative director of Acute Care Services. "I ended up taking care of these very same patients."

She eventually became a research nurse in the Department of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology, where she worked with colorectal and pancreatic cancer patients. About the same time (in 2002), Cathy Eng, M.D., associate professor, joined GI Medical Oncology, and Tripp began working on a number of her colorectal cancer trials.

A stroll through a "colon"
According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cause of cancer in men and women and the second leading cause of cancer death. However, colorectal cancer, relative to other malignancies, is a preventable cancer.

iMove and So Should You

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imove icon.jpgBy Katrina Burton, MD Anderson Staff Writer

Whether it's riding your bike to the local grocery store, mowing your lawn or taking a brisk walk around the park, being physically active is necessary to being healthy and can prolong your life.

Lorna McNeill, Ph.D, M.P.H., assistant professor in MD Anderson's Department of Health Disparities Research, has discovered in her many years as a researcher that sedentary behavior can lead to multiple health issues and diseases, including cancer.

Her latest clinical trial, iMove, is focused on understanding the various social and environmental influences on physical activity in sedentary minority adults, particularly targeting Latinos and African-Americans.

Research shows that only one-third of adults in the United States get the recommended amount of physical activity. The problem is even greater among some ethnic minority groups. In fact, African-Americans and Latinos have the lowest rates of physical activity and the highest rates of inactivity.

"Lack of physical activity can contribute to a number of health issues including diabetes, heart disease and obesity," McNeill says. "Physical activity can have a profound improvement on a person's quality of life. Our research is designed to help these specific target groups engage and maintain moderate-intensity activity."

Going where no one else has gone

Aptly named, iMove examines the influences that affect a person's ability to initiate and maintain physical activity, and identifies changes that occur during the course of physical activity. Some changes that are being monitored include reducing perceived environmental barriers and psychosocial stressors.

By Stephen Collazo, Department of Social Work

socialworkmonthpic.jpgMarch is National Social Work Month. While we could toot our own horn, I think the best way to celebrate is to do what social work counselors at MD Anderson do best -- help patients enhance their quality of life and cope with their disease.

What sorts of things might get in the way of patients and families having the best quality of life possible while going through a disease like cancer? 

Often times, it's figuring out how to deal with all the stress, fears, feelings of helplessness and constant change of emotions that accompany the cancer experience on a daily basis. 

While it's certainly natural to focus on the future and what happens down the road as you or your loved one move through treatment, staying focused on just making it through the day or even the next hour can sometimes help you maintain your sanity.

Getting by "one day at a time" is going to look different to each person. 

While I might be more expressive and prefer to talk about my feelings, for others, having to rehash what they've been feeling and experience the stress over again is anxiety inducing in and of itself. 

The important thing is figuring out what works for you, how you cope best, and then using those coping tools when needed.

Florencetipspicfinal.jpgBy Florence Arya

One day I got a call and the woman on the phone said, "You need to schedule an appointment to see our oncologist."

I said, "Who are you? How did you get my name. I don't have cancer. Check with your doctor and make sure I'm the right person."

She asked the doctor and learned that he had lunch with my gynecologist and they believe that they need to operate.  

I called my gynecologist and she started crying. She told me I have uterine cancer. It was found when they did a Pap smear. The Pap test is to check for cervical cancer, but my cancer was so close to the cervix that the test found it. It was a one-in-a-million diagnosis.

I got a hysterectomy as soon as possible and then went to the oncologist. She said that I had uterine papillary serous carcinoma, stage 3A. She said my cancer was very rare, very aggressive and very advanced. In her opinion, I only had 1-2 years to live.   

There I was in the best shape of my life, exercising 11½ hours a week, retired, traveling, having fun with my husband, and suddenly everything was going to disappear.

I am now an eight-year cancer survivor!

Dr,Uenoaskingrightquestions.jpgBy Naoto Ueno, M.D., Ph.D., Department of Breast Medical Oncology

As a patient, you're entitled to ask your health care providers anything. In that sense, there are no bad questions.

But some questions will help you get more out of your interaction with your health care providers than others. This advice comes from my experience as a medical oncologist and a cancer survivor.

Before asking your questions, remember that you're dealing with a human being. Doctors are not gods or saints. We try to remain professional, but just like anyone else, we prefer to deal with those who are pleasant.

You don't have to hide your anger, but anger that's not accompanied by constructive criticism can result in a very poor patient-health care provider relationship.

Next, you need to recognize that doctors don't have unlimited time. Yes, we'd like to provide you with as much time and attention as you need, but the reality is that the time one health care provider has for one patient is limited. In many cases, we must prioritize our time to address the needs of patients in the most critical medical situations.

By Hans Rueffert

Hans.jpgIn July 2005, just two weeks after taping the finale for "Next Food Network Star," I was diagnosed with stomach cancer. The irony that a chef would contract stomach cancer was not lost on my physicians or me. The cancer was diagnosed as stage III and I ended up having half of my stomach and half of my esophagus removed.

Though I wouldn't wish the disease on anyone, I will say that my experience with it has heightened my appreciation of life, love, family and, of course, food. If I can offer one piece of advice, it would simply be this: Never take anything for granted. Never.

With the Dow Jones average recently crossing the 13,000 threshold, people are beginning to talk about investing again. Rather than blaming "the economy" for the woes of the world, folks are once again starting to actually participate in the financial world rather than just watching the peaks and valleys of the stock market. 

As a gastric cancer survivor, I've chosen to invest my energies into a much more certain endeavor than gold or bonds: mentoring. 

"Hans? You don't know me, but my name is Jim and I survived what you're going through right now. Can we talk? I think you'll want to hear what I have to say."

I may have been a little cold at the start, having been inundated by the masses of goji and noni juice predators/salesmen that somehow suddenly "care" when the "C" word is tossed about. But once Jim began to tell his story, I began to open up and listen with my whole body.

Acts of Kindness

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actsofkindnesspic.jpgBy Holly Easley

Holly Easley began her cancer journey five years ago when she was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). After two types of chemotherapy and then a stem cell transplant, she says she loves life, is improving daily and enjoys blogging about the cancer experience at

This morning, as I was putting my grocery bags into my car, a man walked up to me and said," I just watched you walking to your car and noticed how skinny you are ... you OK?"

"I'm fine; it's the stem cell transplant/chemo diet." He was very kind and genuine, and wished me the best. I'd never seen the man before, it was just a random act of kindness.

Random acts of kindness can come from anywhere
On Halloween while at my local oncologist's office, a young girl walked up to me and gave me her favorite piece of candy from her trick-or-treat bag.

In Houston, Wade and I were trying a new Mexican restaurant for breakfast, and there was only one other English speaking couple there. The woman came up to us and recommended what we should order, which turned out to be great!

By the end of our meal she had given me her business card and offered to help in any way we needed.

I received a beautiful, handmade prayer shawl from a stranger. Then my mother-in-law's brother, whom I've never met, gave me his wife's scripture quilt (she passed away from cancer).

Imagine flying from out of state to MD Anderson for treatment every week, paying thousands of dollars a year on plane tickets, hotel bills and ground transportation. 

Needless to say, it adds up quickly.

The Houston Ground Angels is a network of volunteers who donate their time to help provide patients in need free transportation to and from their health care facility.

All you have to do is ask, and a friendly face will be waiting at the airport ready to drive you to your next clinic visit.

In the past 10 years, with more than 6,800 missions completed (with patients traveling from 42 states), they've provided assistance to many.


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